Cats and dogs are often depicted as mortal enemies in popular culture. But in truth, both animals can learn how to peacefully coexist with each other if their human owner does a good job of properly introducing them to each other. This is something you should remember if you have plans to bring a new puppy into your household.
To help you sow the seeds of a potentially beautiful friendship, here are a few tips for getting your cat acquainted with your new pup:
Be Familiar with Their Body Language
Learning your pets’ body language will help you get a better sense of what they may be feeling when meeting a new animal, whether that’s fear, overexcitement, or something else entirely.
For example, your cat likely feels threatened if you see them crouch, tuck their tail, arch their back, flatten down their ears, or face sideways upon being introduced to your new pup. Hissing and hiding are also tell-tale signs that your kitty is not ready to be friendly.
On the puppy’s end, they may be harbouring hostile emotions when they growl, lick their lips, raise a paw, yawn, tuck their tail, look away, or pull their ears back.
Establish Separate Areas
Before and in between their official introductions, designate a “dog area” and “cat area” to ensure that both pets have separate spaces where they can feel secure. You can place stair gates at doorways between the designated areas to allow both pets to smell and see each other at a safe distance. Just make sure that both pets have easy routes to and from their safe areas.
Introduce Them to Each Other’s Scents
Scent also plays a big role in the way cats and dogs communicate with each other. To get your cat and new puppy used to each other’s smell, try placing towels on their respective beddings and switch them every day for at least a week.
You can make things easier on yourself by sorting the items to be used exclusively for your cat and for your dog, versus the ones you’ll switch up to familiarize your pets with each other’s scent. To this end, you can browse pet merchandise such as PrideBites customizable pet products for personalized beds, towels, and blankets to help you better distinguish who owns which item.
Conduct Closed-Door Sound Training for Your Cat and Puppy
Besides scent, cats and dogs also use sound to gather vast amounts of information about their surroundings. For this step of the introduction process, you’ll need to use sound to let your pets associate each other with nice things such as food.
For example, try playing a game of fetch with your pup inside a closed room while your cat has ample opportunity to listen in. Your cat needs to hear that you are having fun so that they can deduce that the puppy is not a threat, even when you’re out of sight. When giving your pup treats as a reward, you can also place the snacks near the door to acclimate them to your cat’s presence.
Allow Them to See Each Other More Often
Once your pets are a bit more used to each other’s presence, you can move on to conducting more frequent face-to-face introductions in your house’s common area. The first sessions must be short and sweet. Dogs tend to be jumpier than cats, so it’s also important to put them on a leash for all sessions.
Avoid restraining both pets to prevent aggressive behaviour, and keep treats on hand for both of them as a reward for good behaviour. Repeat the routine daily and end these sessions when either of them gets too aggressive.
Let Them Loose Together
If you’re pretty sure that your cat and puppy have made some progress, proceed to let them loose in a room together while supervising their interactions. Make sure that you can still get your puppy on a leash to restrain them when they get overexcited. Your cat should also have easy access to a dog-free “sanctuary” area when things get a bit rowdy or heated with your pup.
Continue Supervised Interactions
As the owner of both a cat and a puppy, don’t make the mistake of immediately stopping the process once you see that they’re not acting aggressively toward each other anymore. Again, you need to have the patience to repeat training procedures as you see fit and to adjust your approach as you go.
Just like humans, pets move at their own pace and take time to get used to the presence of others. They also have their own ways of connecting with each other and making themselves known. You might be surprised to find that after a rigorous introduction phase, your two pets with stereotypically polar-opposite personalities will manage to become unlikely best friends. For sure, that will be something for you to celebrate as both a cat and dog lover!